State Senator Lloyd Smucker said he voted for a functional, fiscally tight state budget that avoids a crisis while keeping the door open for reform.
â€œThere are three things to be said for this budget â€“ it contains no state tax increases, it holds new spending in line with reasonable expectations on revenues, and it avoids the disruptions in services that occur when there is a budget deadlock.Â However, that does not mean our job is finished,â€? Smucker stated.
â€œIn the absence of reforms to the pension structure and other cost drivers, it is impossible to justify much in the way of spending increases.Â The expected revenues just will not support a big spending increase. Â We managed some improvements on the spending side in critical program areas, in education, human services, and public safety,â€? he pointed out.
Reflecting the revenue shortfalls of recent months, the budget approved by the Senate spends several hundred million dollars less than what Governor Corbett recommended in February.
â€œThe overall spending level is based on the best analysis we have seen of economic growth and revenue yield over the next twelve months.Â How those numbers turn out, and not any political judgment of the moment, will determine how well this budget ends up serving Pennsylvaniaâ€™s needs,â€? Smucker said.
â€œA lot of different scenarios have been suggested and looked at in recent weeks.Â There is simply not a set of happy choices available to us.Â The votes are not yet there for structural changes to programs or taxes.Â In a way, this budget buys time.Â It is possible that public pressure might force action on reform before the end of this legislative session,â€? he noted.
What the federal government decides in respect to the waiver request on Medicaid could affect the situation significantly.Â â€œIf we get the authority to revamp Medicaid services, it could save money and bring in federal dollars to extend coverage to more people.Â So there still are possibilities for making the budget situation better,â€? Smucker explained.
â€œAs we came up against the constitutional deadline for approving a state budget, alternative budget plans lacked the required support in the House and Senate and the governorâ€™s willingness to sign them.Â It is very easy to draw up a more popular budget.Â The difficulty comes in lining up the votes for it,â€? he concluded.